Feature Article

Nursing graduates 25th class

Program changed the face of healthcare throughout the region

Walters Stateís nursing program is celebrating a milestone with the graduation recently of its 25th class.

The program was established with the goal of meeting a tremendous community need. In the years since, it has continued to meet that need while providing opportunities for the 2,396 nurses who have graduated from the program.

"Over a long period of time now, the nursing program has proven to be what I would call a real quality program," said Mary Lou Apple, dean of the Health Programs Division at Walters State and former director of Nursing.

In 1974 the critical need for nurses was a headline story in area newspapers. The counties in the collegeís service area needed a combined 65 nurses.

Even before he arrived on campus to assume the duties of the college presidency in the fall of 1974, Dr. Jack E. Campbell was keenly aware of the need. Several leaders in the community told him that they had been trying unsuccessfully for years to gain approval for a nursing program at the college. Campbell promised that he would work toward that goal and he quickly orchestrated a plan of action that drew overwhelming community support.

"The nursing program truly stemmed from the communityís interest, need and support," said Campbell.

"Weíre confident that the heathcare and the overall quality of life in this region has been improved significantly as a result of this nursing program," Campbell also said.

"Itís hard for me to believe itís been 25 years, but my calendar tells me itís been that long," said Dr. Emogene Dotson, the first director of nursing who retired in 1993.

"As a program we reached our dreams, and I am very proud to have been a part of it for 19 years," Dotson also said.

One of the products of the first graduating class in 1977 was Patty Ketterman, who currently currently serves as director of nursing at Baptist Hospital of Cocke County.

"People were watching us closely in those early years to see if Walters State nursing graduates could perform as well as those from other programs. Now hospitals compete for the opportunity to hire WSCC graduates," Ketterman said.

The programís placement rate has consistently been 95 percent or better and the passage rate on the nursing licensure exam has also remained near the top nationally.

Over the years the community has continued to support the program. More than $130,000 of endowed scholarships has been established, and they are still providing opportunities for the next generation of nurses.


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